How to cure hiccups: complete guide to get rid of hiccups

How to cure hiccups

Outlines how to cure hiccups, what causes them, home remedies to get rid of hiccups, what do do about chronic hiccuping, and when you should see a doctor!

Hiccups are rarely really dangerous, but you still want to get rid of them quickly. You can find out what causes the hiccups and how to cure hiccups in the sections below.

How to cure hiccups: Overview and origin of hiccups

Hiccups are caused by cramping of the diaphragm: The muscle is one of the most important respiratory organs in the human body – when it contracts, we breathe in. If there is now a cramp, the diaphragm involuntarily and quickly contracts, whereby the glottis in the larynx closes: When the inhaled air hits the glottis, the typical hiccup sound occurs.

Scientists have long puzzled over the biological meaning of the hiccups. Researchers from Paris now suspect that the hiccups are a leftover from gill breathing. Lungfish, for example, which have lungs and gills at the same time, squirt water over their gills by compressing their oral cavity. They close their glottis so that no water can get into the lungs.

Apparently the part of the brain that is responsible for the movements of the gill breathing has been preserved for millions of years and also controls the glottis in humans. But why have we continued to have the seemingly useless hiccups? It is believed to help babies suckle. The sequence of muscle movements during hiccups is similar to that of infants during breastfeeding. This closes the baby’s glottis so that milk does not get into the lungs, but it is useful for parents to know How to stop hiccups in a baby.

People have their first hiccups before they are even born. Even unborn babies tickle in the womb. This may be used to train the little ones’ breathing reflex. According to another theory, the reflex prevents fluid from entering the windpipe. Infants are also more likely to hiccup. According to a Canadian researcher, hiccups could have the purpose of getting air out of the stomach, similar to burping. This creates space for the little ones to be able to absorb more milk while sucking. In adults, the hiccups probably have no function. On the contrary, it is extremely annoying.

How to prevent hiccups

Everyone has probably had hiccups before, and unfortunately it cannot be completely prevented. However, you can avoid it as much as possible with these tips:

  • Take your time eating and drinking. Chew the food thoroughly, so you don’t swallow as much air and relieve your stomach.
  • Drink less iced drinks and let the ice thaw a little before consuming.
  • You should let extremely hot food cool down first.
  • It’s better to eat several small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones that are then heavy in the stomach.

Effective home remedies to get rid of hiccups

If you have hiccups, it is important to relax your diaphragm again. To do this, you can simply lie down for a moment and make sure you breathe calmly and evenly. The hiccups usually pass as soon as the diaphragm has calmed down. To shorten the time, many resort to one of the countless home remedies for hiccups:

  • Hold your breath Inhale as much air as you can, then hold it for a few seconds. Then let it flow out evenly – your diaphragm relaxes again and the hiccups should go away.
  • The so-called Vasalva method of the above strategy, which also relieves pressure on the ears, can help against hiccups : hold your nose , close your mouth and then tense your breathing muscles as if you were exhaling. The pressure bulges the eardrum outward and compresses the chest cavity. Maintain this pressure for around ten to 15 seconds. The same applies here: Do not overdo it with the pressure and duration of the exercise.
  • Distract yourself. Anyone who has ever had hiccups knows the question: “What did you have for lunch yesterday?” If you focus on something else or think about something during the hiccups , the nervous system becomes distracted and the diaphragm calms down.
  • Drink a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice . The acid distracts your nerves, which then tend to concentrate on it rather than on the hiccups.
  • Let yourself be scared! When someone scares you, you breathe in air quickly and jerkily, causing the diaphragm to contract. This releases the cramp.
  • Time for a joke! When you laugh, the diaphragm loosens through inhalation and can relax.
  • Breathe in a paper bag to increase the level of carbon dioxide in the blood
  • Drink a glass of water while bending upside down
  • Hold your breath and then swallow the moment you feel the hiccups coming (repeat several times)
  • Cover your ears with both thumbs, at the same time press the nostrils together with your little fingers and inflate your cheeks with your lips closed
  • Bend forward or bend your knees while sitting, this puts pressure on the chest
  • Drink vinegar or eat sugar
  • Have somebody give you a scare!

The home remedies for how to cure hiccups are mostly all based on the same principle: They are supposed to irritate part of the vegetative nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system. The nerves report this to the hiccup center in the brain and the hiccups stop. The success of these tricks has not been proven, they are usually worth a try for those afflicted.

How do hiccups actually occur In medical terms?

Hiccups are caused by a spasm of the diaphragm. There are various reasons for this:

  • Fluctuations in temperature in the stomach caused by hot or cold dishes and drinks irritate the stomach and diaphragm.
  • Too large portions as well as fast food and drink stretch the stomach – and this also affects the diaphragm.
  • If you swallow a lot of air , for example from hasty smoking, the stomach quickly becomes very full and irritates the diaphragm as well.
  • If you are nervous , excited, afraid or stressed, you breathe faster and more irregularly. Under certain circumstances, this can cause the diaphragm to cramp.
  • During pregnancy, the baby sometimes presses on the diaphragm, causing them to tense up and hiccups.

If the diaphragm suddenly cramps up, the glottis between the vocal cords will reflexively close. The air in the lungs cannot escape as a result, the incoming air collides against the closed vocal cords. A pressure arises that is discharged in the form of the familiar hiccup. The nerves in the brain, namely in the brain stem, the so-called hiccup center, are responsible for the diaphragmatic reflexes.

Often, irritation of the phrenic nerve (nervus phrenicus) triggers hiccups – for example by swallowing too quickly. Very hot and very cold food or drinks in a row, as well as alcohol or nicotine, can also trigger the stimulus. So the cliché of the drunk who has hiccups is not that wrong.

Chronic hiccups: More than two days

Hiccups only become chronic in rare cases. This means that it will last more than two days. Such a long-lasting singultus often has no identifiable cause (idiopathic chronic hiccups, careful medical evaluation required). At the same time, it is extremely uncomfortable and stressful. Those affected feel increasingly tired and exhausted, many suffer from insomnia and not infrequently develop depression .

There is no silver bullet for idiopathic chronic hiccups. Breathing and behavior therapy can be helpful. If the singult still persists, the patients receive a combination of, for example, muscle-relaxing agents and drugs that are supposed to have a dampening effect on muscle-stimulating stimuli from the so-called hiccup center (see section “Therapy for chronic hiccups” below).

How to cure hiccups: When should you see a doctor?

Hiccups usually go away as quickly as they appeared. However, if it persists for several days or appears very often, you should see a doctor. Caution : If you have headaches, nausea and dizziness at the same time as you have hiccups, and you may also have trouble seeing or speaking, this could indicate a stroke. In this case, call the emergency doctor immediately. Also see your doctor, if:

  • the hiccups occur very often or more often than before
  • it extends over a longer period of time, for example a whole day,
  • In addition to frequent or persistent hiccups, there are other symptoms such as heartburn, acid regurgitation, stomach pain , nausea, jaundice .
  • Warning signs are additional symptoms such as tiredness , weight loss or swelling in the neck area. They also suggest an illness as the cause.
  • ! Important : If an acute hiccup is accompanied by headaches , dizziness , nausea, paralysis, speech disorders and / or visual disturbances , this could be an alarm signal for a neurological problem, for example a stroke . Then it is necessary to call the emergency services immediately.

The family doctor investigates the cause of the hiccups with various examination methods and, depending on the suspicion, refers the patient to a gastroenterologist, neurologist, ear, nose and throat doctor or another specialist (see below: “Diagnosis of constant hiccups”).

How to cure hiccups: Possible causes of acute and chronic hiccups

Common triggers of acute hiccups

These can primarily be behaviors and factors that irritate the diaphragm or the relevant nerves (phrenic nerve, see above) or act via the vegetative nervous system and the vagus nerve. With its sympathetic and parasympathetic components, the vegetative nervous system controls the predominantly involuntary bodily functions, including digestion, circulation, breathing and much more.

The vagus nerve is the main nerve of the parasympathetic system and influences the digestive organs in the chest and abdomen and their movements. Possible stimulus triggers for acute hiccups include:

  • Hasty, quick swallowing while eating or drinking, “swallowing air”.
  • Very hot or cold foods and drinks, especially if you take them alternately. A sudden change in the ambient temperature, from cold to warm and vice versa, can also provoke a hiccup.
  • Much alcohol and heavy smoking are common causes.
  • Psychological influences such as stress , excitement, fright and the associated hasty, irregular breathing are also possible.
  • Neurons
  • Nerve disorders can cause chronic hiccups

Pathological causes of persistent or chronic hiccups

Persistent or recurring hiccups often develop without an identifiable cause ( idiopathic chronic hiccups, see above). Sometimes, however, certain diseases are also responsible. They affect the upper sections of the digestive system, i.e. the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. Inflammations, swellings or growths can irritate the nerves and diaphragm and also obstruct the passage of air.

Metabolic and hormonal diseases also play a role. Finally, nerve disorders that directly affect the phrenic nerve and the vagus nerve in their course are possible causes. Nerve damage in the brain can also affect the function of these nerves through a variety of connections. With the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in some African countries, it also became apparent that the hiccups often persist for several days as this infectious disease progresses.

With all these diseases, however, other key symptoms are usually in the foreground, hiccups only appear as an additional symptom. Sometimes a singultus is also close to a belching of air (“belching”, medical ructus, eructation). However, other mechanisms are at work when breathing out air. It is a separate symptom picture.

Diseases in the digestive system

  • Reflux disease (pathological reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus): The main symptoms are heartburn with pain behind the breastbone, belching of stomach acid or food particles, often also difficulty swallowing, hiccups, bad breath, dental problems, morning cough, hoarseness, occasionally pain in the upper abdomen. One of the other possible causes is a diaphragmatic hernia (hiatal hernia).

Diseases of the larynx and esophagus

  • Constant reflux of gastric acid (see previous section), as well as infections from fungi and viruses, can trigger inflammation in the esophagus (esophagitis) and the surrounding tissue, which sometimes irritates the phrenic nerve. Difficulty swallowing, pain behind the breastbone and in the upper abdomen, and heartburn are typical symptoms. In addition, there is sometimes a tightness in the throat, occasional hiccups, vomiting and diarrhea .
  • Esophageal diverticula lead to difficulty swallowing, heartburn, belching of food particles and bad breath. Depending on the location, they can also have inflammation of the throat and larynx, irritate the glottis and diaphragm. The result is sometimes hiccups.

Gastrointestinal disease

  • A gastrointestinal inflammation (gastroenteritis), usually caused by infection with viruses or bacteria, expressed above all in diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain. Difficulty breathing, flu-like symptoms with fever and aching limbs are possible depending on the type of infection, and sometimes increased hiccups.
  • Sometimes, in addition to frequent belching, hiccups also plague people who suffer from inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis). Typical of acute inflammation, however, are stomach pain, nausea and a feeling of fullness.